Social Media Posts Used to Humiliate Nursing Home Residents

May 19th, 2016 by Attorney Roger Weinberg

When working on cases of nursing home neglect and abuse, you learn a lot about people. You learn how decent and caring our clients and their families are. You also learn that some nursing home employees have no concept of respecting other people, especially those who are older and/or disabled. They don’t have a problem with degrading others for fun.

Some examples of that are photos and videos of nursing home residents posted on social media, many of them showing partially or totally naked patients, according to the Washington Post. These posts violate residents’ privacy, dignity, and sometimes criminal law.

There were 35 instances of this abuse found in reports to the federal Department of Health and Human Services since 2012.  Some of the people involved have faced criminal charges. Posting these photos and videos without residents’ permission may violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal patient privacy law that carries potential civil and criminal penalties for violations.

The incidents have included these:

  • A nursing assistant in Washington sent a co-worker a video of a resident sitting on a bedside toilet with her pants down while laughing and singing.
  • A nursing home assistant in Illinois video-recorded another employee lightly slapping the face of a 97-year-old woman with a nylon strap. The woman cried out, “Don’t! Don’t!” as she was being struck. The employees laughed.
  • A nursing home assistant in Ohio videotaped residents lying in bed as they were coached to say, “I’m in love with the coco” (slang for cocaine). Across one female resident’s chest was a banner that read, “Got these hoes trained.” The video was shared on Snapchat. The resident’s son said she was a church secretary for 30 years and would have been mortified by the video.
  • Former nurse’s aide Ericha Brown posted on Facebook a video in 2012 showing a hand pulling at the back of a woman’s hair while co-workers off camera taunted her. “The boss lady said that if you don’t wash the dishes, she will slap the black off you . . . and she called you a bitch,” one says. Brown added the caption: “I miss these mornings.”
  • A California nursing assistant reported a co-worker in 2014 for using Snapchat to send photos of residents who were “inappropriately exposed” or who appeared to be deceased. The assistant told state health inspectors that “she was absolutely disgusted by the lack of respect this showed for human life and for a person who had passed…It was amazing to her that a person could be so uncaring for a laugh.”

These postings were rarely found by the nursing homes. Most were found due to tips from other employees or members of the community. The incidents that came to light may be a tiny fraction of those that actually occur. These photos and videos are often not made publically available but only to a limited number of friends, who may not inform a nursing home or state government of their existence.

One of the few people criminally prosecuted, Taylor Waller, a former Indiana nursing assistant, showed little remorse for her actions. In September she pleaded guilty to a count of voyeurism for sharing a photo of a resident’s back side and buttocks on Snapchat. She served three days in jail and was on probation. “They just blew everything out of proportion,” she’s quoted as saying. “It was just a picture of her butt.”

If you or a loved one has suffered a loss of privacy because of unauthorized release of photos or videos by a Maryland nursing home employee, we can help you address the situation and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. At the Law Offices of Roger S. Weinberg, you’ll find compassionate support and experienced advocates to help your family through the tough times. Call 410-825-3161 today to schedule a free consultation.

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